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Most Useful OS For High-School Science Education?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the why-in-my-day dept.

Education 434

Clayperion writes "I teach at a high school program for gifted students which emphasizes math, science, and technology. Currently we have two computer labs for the students: A new programming lab (all Dell PCs running XP, MS Visual C++, Eclipse, and SolidWorks for programming and CAD) and an old general-purpose lab (all Macs running OS X 10.3, with software ranging from some legacy OS 9 science applications to MathCad). Most of our students eventually pursue graduate degrees in science and engineering, and we would like them to have experience with the tools they will find out in industry. As we look to replace the old machines, there has been a push to switch to PCs with XP so that there is only a single platform to support. There are over 5000 machines on the district's network and the IT department is very small (fewer than 10 people), so the fewer hardware and software differences between the machines, the better. Without opening a flame war as to which one is 'better,' I'd like to know what those of you in the science and engineering fields actually use more in your labs (hardware, OS, software), so that we can decide which platform to support. It will most likely have to be either XP or OS 10.6, with very restricted permissions to students and teachers, as that is the comfort level of IT and administration, but I'll push for whatever would benefit the students the most."

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Windows XP? (3, Insightful)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302676)

I'm not sure I'm following the logic... Windows XP is getting close to EOL. Why wouldn't you use Windows 7? Certainly it and Windows Server 2008 has more features to make admin'ing easier.

Re:Windows XP? (5, Insightful)

Red_Chaos1 (95148) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302864)

XP may be close to EOL, but it has massive support behind it still. There are numerous applications that extend its features, make it very easy to customize, etc. Not to mention most of the bugs and such that are left are well documented and easy to fix or work around.

Open (0, Troll)

DrugCheese (266151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302680)

Give them something open they can play with. You can learn plenty on windows, and I assume mac (last macintosh i used was a green screen and I learned plenty). Let them get hands on and into the guts of it all. Let them write their own OS from something open.

Re:Open (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302826)

last mac you used was a GREEN SCREEN?

Re:Open (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302874)

Green monochrome monitors were popular, as were amber. They were high persistence phosphorus so there was no flicker. I had a "Gorilla green 17" for years.

Re:Open (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302910)

Mac's never had green monochrome screens though (that I remember, was using one in 1984...) Now old PC's in the 80's had green screens, but not Mac's. (reminds me of watching the computer count all 16K of RAM when it booted up....)

Re:Open (1)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302938)

Apple II on the other hand... did, to my knowledge, have a green screen... available. But yes, Mac was B+W monochrome.

Re:Open (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302960)

Nope, never had a green screen...

Re:Open (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302964)

Maybe this?

Re:Open (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302924)

...last macintosh i used was a green screen...

The original Apple computers were green monochrome, but the first Macintosh was grayscale.

Re:Open (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32303064)

The first Apple computers were color. That was one of the big selling points. TVs were most often used as monitors to take advantage of the color and to keep setup costs down.

However, TVs didn't have enough resolution for things like 80 columns of text. For this, monochrome monitors were needed. Depending on the type of monitor, they tended to be green or amber. The computer had no control over the was all in the monitor. Same thing with the first Macs, only their color was more black/white.

Re:Open (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32303078)

What's to stop him from buying a green monitor and plugging it to a Mac? Hell, I once plugged my Sega Genesis to a green Apple II monitor.

Science or Engineering, huh? (3, Insightful)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302690)

You know those are meaningless unless we know what kind of science or engineering right? Civil engineering? Network engineering? Traffic engineering? Geneticist? PhD Researcher? Hell, Sexology??? What of donuts?! WHAT!?

Re:Science or Engineering, huh? (4, Insightful)

value_added (719364) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302752)

Maybe it's me, but 5,000 Dell computers all running XP suggests Microsoft Certified Systems Engineering.

Re:Science or Engineering, huh? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302886)

Maybe it's me, but 5,000 Dell computers all running XP suggests Microsoft Certified Systems Engineering.

Why do I always hear circus music when anyone mentions them?
DOOT doot doodle oodle OOT doot doot doot, DOOT doot doodle oodle OOT doot doot doot, DOOT doodle oot doot, DOOT doodle oot doot, doodle oodle oodle oodle doodle oodle oot doot.
You know, the music they play when the clown car comes out, and the clowns start getting out, and you're all like, "Can there BE any more clowns?" But there are, there are always more clowns, and they just keep piling out of that car while the music plays.

Re:Science or Engineering, huh? (2, Informative)

J3TP4CKKN1GHT5 (1764232) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302768)

The question is asking about a high school district, meaning 1) most of these students, no matter how gifted, are not doing the same thing now as they will be doing, and 2) we are talking about a significant number of students, with at least some variation. So it doesn't matter specifically what kind of science and engineering, we're looking for the best general answer. As someone who took the science route, I will let the engineers debate the IT side. But I can say that my lab uses a mix of XP, Windows 7 and OS 10.6, and that either OS can be used effectively to teach. The main difference will be applications, so the best bet would be to choose the option that allowed the students access to the best and most varied access to applications

Re:Science or Engineering, huh? (1)

harley78 (746436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303098)

You forgot that -most- of their students go on to graduate school. I guess this was about his school; but then he mentions the 5k student district....I doubt they all go to grad school.....what a douchebag. Give me a break, the person should know better, this is /.

Re:Science or Engineering, huh? (5, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302820)

A mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, and a civil engineer are discussing God. They all agree He must be an engineer, but what kind? The mechanical engineer says, look at the human body, its skeleton, joints and musculature, mechanical genius! God must be a mechanical engineer. The electrical engineer says, Nonsense! Look at the brain, the nerves, God is an electrical engineer. The civil engineer says, "Nope. God is a civil engineer, who else would put the sewer outflow in the middle of the entertainment district?

But we all know donuts belong in the realm of theoretical physics. I quote the great Stephen Hawking, who said, "Your theory of a donut shaped universe is intriguing Homer, I may have to steal it."

Re:Science or Engineering, huh? (2, Insightful)

melikamp (631205) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302854)

Donuts are topologists' coffee mugs.

Re:Science or Engineering, huh? (2, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302904)

My coffee mug has a handle that's only attached at the top, therefore, my coffee mug is more cow-in-a-vacuum shaped than donut shaped.

Re:Science or Engineering, huh? (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303012)

But we all know donuts belong in the realm of theoretical physics. I quote the great Stephen Hawking, who said, "Your theory of a donut shaped universe is intriguing Homer, I may have to steal it."

As a layman, I thought the whole "donut-shaped universe" thing was just a joke, until I read A brief History of Time and realized the genius of that gag. Was David X. Cohen a writer for The Simpsons back then?

Re:Science or Engineering, huh? (1)

harley78 (746436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303108)

A Biologist wants to be a chemist, a chemist wants to be physicist, the physicist wants to be god, god is a Biologist. Err, or somethin...

Re:Science or Engineering, huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302868)

Agreed, hit and a miss on trying to do this.

One OS/Platform/Language/Program doesn't VHDL or Verilog? So...C++ or C# or Objective-C, or Java? So Mac or OS X? So Matlab or Maple?

Pick something that has most of the software you want - a windows variant is good, teach them the basic concepts of USING the software, not just the particular interface of that package, then they can figure out most others. Ie: Maple versus Matlab, quite different, but if you know one, you can learn the other. Verilog and VHDL not so much, but it does apply. You get the idea...generally Windows is used lots, maybe have a unix server to play on with submitting jobs to high performance computing platforms, or partner with a college...

Not much in science is really mac-based, or Linux based for that matter, thought I probably will get modded down for mentioning reality :P

Re:Science or Engineering, huh? (1)

Polumna (1141165) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303120)

Not much in science is really mac-based, or Linux based for that matter, thought I probably will get modded down for mentioning reality :P

First, I agree with the rest of your post, fundamentally, as far as high school is concerned anyway. However, I believe you would be more likely to get modded down for painting with such a broad brush as "science." You could not possibly know the ins and outs of the research methodologies of every field, or even more than "several."

A Linux admin for a research group that would prefer to use anything else... if they could.

Free OS, free software (2, Insightful)

melikamp (631205) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302692)

IMHO, nothing but free software should be used in science and science education. Any research relying on results produced by close-sourced software is voodoo.

Re:Free OS, free software (4, Insightful)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302952)

Then you'd better start writing all the software to control the various scientific instrumentation I use [] , because it all currently requires proprietary software running on the recent Microsoft OSes (that Oxford NMR actually does have a Linux client available, but the PC controlling it runs XP for ease of file transfer).

Any research relying on results produced by close-sourced software is voodoo.

Well, then 98% of published chemical research is voodoo. Companies aren't going to write open software to control the $750K spectrometer they just sold you, and to be perfectly honest, I don't think I'd use software off of Sourceforge to control an investment of that type, anyway. Nd-YAG lasers don't grow on trees, unfortunately.

Why not? (3, Insightful)

DiegoBravo (324012) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303020)

> Companies aren't going to write open software to control the $750K spectrometer they just sold you, and to be perfectly honest, I don't think I'd use software off of Sourceforge to control an investment of that type, anyway.

I'm not a chemist, but I think your investigation is not about controlling the spectrometer, but the resulting spectra. So I think it would very interesting and potentially productive if you have the source code of the software that transforms/filters/enhance/displays the output data.

BTW, I don't believe the people at CERN will rely on some close software for tracing their particle collisions.

Re:Free OS, free software (2, Interesting)

nadaou (535365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303030)

same here, but there is 1 PC dedicated to each bit of equipment and it is *strictly* not used for anything else. So that PC becomes part of the instrument and ages with it. Often the equipment & software can be 15-20 years old and still calibratable & in active operation. Finding old PCs that stay alive that long with a real UART etc. gets harder and harder, but here's to hoping that virtualization saves the day. Got an old Win98 laptop on the shelf for one machine which just has a DOS interface, but keeps on chugging.

But really you are just talking about a data logger for a very expensive sensor. All the real day to day use, formal analysis, and number crunching happens on some flavor of UNIX (Linux/MacOSX/Solais).

Re:Free OS, free software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32303004)

i.e. science fundamentally depends on reproducible results and standing on top of many short people (or a few giants, but short people are a lot more common).

That means learning from them, not relying on them.

Closed-source software in science is just a subset of a bigger problem: reliance on potentially buggy black boxes.

Re:Free OS, free software (3, Insightful)

Chryana (708485) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303082)

Given the shortage of manpower the OP mentions, I think he could use the administration tools that come with Windows, and therefore should buy licenses for it. I'll even go as far as to say that to base such an important business decision on some idealistic views of how a computer science lab should be ran would be irresponsible, and worthy of being fired.

Any research relying on results produced by close-sourced software is voodoo.

The validity of any research is confirmed by the ability to independently reproduce its results, not because you can check the code which is used to generate the research data.

*nix Windows Mac (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302694)

Don't get a mac, it's a very locked down version of unix, *shutters at the thought* get the windows machine, if you really want unix install freebsd or linux(Ubuntu,for starters, gentoo for more advanced users) on a 2nd partition(you can learn a lot)

Re:*nix Windows Mac (1)

jsepeta (412566) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302812)

running multiple partitions on computers is probably a little too techie for most high school computer lab administrators to handle. with school budgets slashed and fewer techs available in almost every school district, multiple partitions = multiple headaches. there's really no need to run multiple partitions when you run virtual machines with different OSes. plus by using OSX as your base OS, it opens the door to running whatever OS you want in a VM.

No brainer: Windows (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302696)

Let the artists use Mac in graphics class, and let the computer scientists use Linux in programming class, but everyone else should be using Windows, period. End of discussion.

[ Disclaimer: I am a software engineer. I have worked for Microsoft, but I hate them. Also, I've used Linux as my primary desktop OS for a couple years now. ]

Re:No brainer: Windows (2, Informative)

jsepeta (412566) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302830)

macs are good for all kinds of tasks, not just art, electronic design, filmography, or music production. have you ever seen XCode? it's free with the OS and provides a fairly powerful IDE. don't knock it until you've tried it.

Re:No brainer: Windows (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302978)

macs are good for all kinds of tasks, not just art, electronic design, filmography, or music p

Thing is, the writer of this question is wanting a real world idea. And not to knock the Mac, but in most businesses Windows rules and so I'd say Windows would be the best bet. Sure Mac could be done, but it's not done. There are also other signs that Apple has no interest in real world business options. []

It's... ALIVE!!! (0)

zephvark (1812804) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302698)

XP, of course. Windows is still the One Big Commercial Marketplace. It is an advantage to know, and a disadvantage not to. It runs the world's software from games to big business, from COBOL to Ruby on Rails, from free to MacLockdown. Run with that puppy.

This is Slashdot after all... (0)

Red Midnight (1440977) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302700) I'm going to go out on a limb that some version of Linux is going to get mentioned.

Re:This is Slashdot after all... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302926)

Why, heavens no, we can't have them using Linux. I mean, these are engineering and scientific students. We can't actually have them learn anything like, oh, I don't know, how an OS works by, God forbid, actually looking at the source code. Then, dern it, they might learn something. Can't have that now.

OSX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302702)

For science, I'd have to say OSX, or at least for the life sciences. The majority of the up and coming programs for data analysis are for OSX/Linux. These include MOTHUR/DATUR/4peaks/ARB/R/etc. I'm not so sure for engineering, but I'm sure someone here can answer that.

WetWare 1.0 (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302708)

You can teach computers and programming without a computer. For initial learning, the box gets in the way, big-time.

Better to teach someone the ideas of structured programming BEFORE they write their first line of code. I love pasta, but spaghetti code is a different matter.

Feed the brain, then let the students pick their own OS. Otherwise, you're just creating the next generation of BASIC Zombies.

Re:WetWare 1.0 (4, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303088)

IMHO, teaching programming without a computer is like trying to teach math without using numbers. I mean the arabic numbering system is basically a shorthand way of writing down polynomials where 'x' is always 10. The numbers have a reality quite apart from their representation and getting that is one of the most fundamental and important ideas in math.

But really, starting there is a bad idea.

People get excited and enthused by results. Nobody is going to be excited and enthused by a set of principles that don't have any connection to anything else they know. Getting people excited about learning is the biggest part of the battle.

Absolutely disagree (2, Insightful)

pem (1013437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303132)

That's a horrible analogy. Teaching programming without a computer is more like teaching math without using a calculator, which IMHO is an excellent idea, at least until some level of proficiency is achieved.

I taught myself programming (and how to wire together an 8080) a good two years before I was able to use a real computer, from those things made out of dead trees. I can still find problems in assembly, C, Verilog, whatever, by reading the code much faster than many of my co-workers can by running simulators and debuggers.

A rigorous understanding of logic requires no hardware.

Engineering programming - SQL and PHP (1)

adoll (184191) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302710)

I do process engineering calculations in some pretty big applications. Many of them are web-based since I'm too lazy to program user interfaces. Side bonus is two of us can work on the application at the same time if it is web-based.

The single most useful thing I can recommend for engineering & science students is SQL. I can't tell you how many people I've seen using spreadsheets for a completely inappropriate application because they don't know how a proper database works.

But SQL doesn't do much by itself - I use PHP to interface with it. PHP has its problems, but it is simple, forgiving, and widespread.

Re:Engineering programming - SQL and PHP (1) (1471853) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302848)

You say you use PHP, because you don't want to program a user interface? What you see in the browser *is* a user interface. The mathematical operations available in PHP are disgustingly small. You must be talking about using PHP to view formatted data from a database.
While I agree that SQL is a must, if one must choose a scripting language, pick something that's more versatile than PHP. Something that can at least do command line.

Re:Engineering programming - SQL and PHP (1)

pjfontillas (1743424) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303090)

What do you mean by command line? PHP can feed MySQL commands as if you were sitting at a terminal, and then returns query results that can then be piped to JS, Python, Perl, or just about any other language you prefer for crunching data and mathematical operations.

A grave problem I usually see when someone complains about a certain language is that they tend to think that the language has absolutely no way to interact with anything else and that you're stuck with whatever functionality it, and only it, provides.

Linux in our labs (5, Informative)

King InuYasha (1159129) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302712)

Most of our labs in college use a mix of Fedora and Ubuntu Linux, with some Solaris speckled around.

I'd probably go for Fedora, since a lot of students will likely be working on some Fedora derivative, and it is easier (in my opinion) than Ubuntu to administer. However, it's really up to you.

I've also heard that many of the co-op companies our college partners with use some form of Linux. Though, for obvious reasons, a few design oriented companies use Mac OS X, though that may change in the future.

Windows is a rarity, from what I've seen and heard.

Re:Linux in our labs (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302840)

I'll throw in another vote for Linux for the computational chemistry arena. We use primarily Opensuse or Ubuntu (I actually prefer Opensuse, though). For those applications that absolutely must run on Windows, VMware works great! You will, of course, find predominantly Windows systems of some variant (XP, Vista) in many "wet" experimental laboratories, and many biophysical chemistry instruments (ITC, DSC, IR, CD spec, etc) seem to use a Windows-based computer interface to run the instrument.

Re:Linux in our labs (1)

adbge (1693228) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302908)

CentOS might be a better choice than Fedora.

Re:Linux in our labs (1)

King InuYasha (1159129) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302922)

I'll give you that. But the main reason I shied away from CentOS was the fact the software may be extremely old.

However, at this time, CentOS 5.5 does really have some decently recent software, so it is a viable option for long term usage.

Re:Linux in our labs (1)

OldGeek61 (1438391) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302980)

Go with Fedora, most textbooks on CS that I've seen use it.

Re:Linux in our labs (1)

King InuYasha (1159129) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303036)

Most of the CS textbooks I've seen actually show Red Hat Linux 7.x or 8.0 screenshots. That's mainly the reason why Fedora is so prevalent here...

Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302718)

because it's for human beings.

Re:Ubuntu (1)

scotch (102596) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302940)

I'd go with DrDos or Xenix

any linux distro (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302722)

I'm working on my master in math and Linux is a must. There is so much compiling, scripting and ssh'ing that it makes Linux the best choice.
MacOS as a second choice (I hate mac) however it still does lack in some places. Examples are software libs, sparse matrix solvers, r, sage, latex, root(physics) .
That being said you can install most of these on a mac but its a process vs a 'sudo apt-get install' in a debian type distro. Also at least in my experience there are alot
of people in these fields running linux which makes collaboration much easier do to similar software versions, ideally this shouldn't matter but not many program that cleanly.

OS exposure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302734)

Frankly, expose them to all 3. Linux, Windows and Mac. If these are G&T kids, they shouldn't have a problem with the learning curve between environments.

Which would you rather have: learn distinct programming and design environments on Microsoft or MAC, or being shown the differences between the intending software tools across all environments, and why proprietary software might be better than FOSS in some circumstances.

To have them learn a software package that they might not use again is kinda pointless. Software is a tool. Giving them the proper perspective when deciding on an OS, software package, or programming environment would be a far better prospect.

it depends... (1)

dmbchris (563401) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302740)

Windows for running hardware and doing experiments, linux for running computer models, and macs for generating articles and figures.

There is just not much support for other OSes for the vast majority of experimental hardware- load frames, cameras, data acquisition, Simulink, Labview, etc. This is especially true with smaller companies that sell very expensive equipment with custom software- it is almost always winXP and maybe win7.

Chances are good that when your students are running a small model then the OS doesn't matter, they will be using a common language that is available on all (java, FORTRAN, matlab). If it is a large, complex model, then they will be forced to use linux because the cluster they buy time on will require it.

If I am post-processing data to generate figures, articles, presentations, and reports, I use a mac- they are still the most productive OS for creativity, IMO.

Two options (1)

Global-Lightning (166494) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302746)

1. Load a VM enviroment on your XP boxes, then you can create instances of VM's running other x86 based OS's. I'd recommend UNIX, in paricular a flavor of Linux, a flavor of BSD, and Open Solaris.

2. Boot an alternate OS on your XP boxes from a USB, DVD, or other removable media.

Educational environment (2, Interesting)

uvsc_wolverine (692513) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302750)

While I'm a confessed Apple zealot I'd go with PCs running XP. It's the more common, more supported platform. A lot more of the "industry standard" type of applications will be running on PCs running either Windows or Linux. In the computer labs I support we're replacing all of the machines this summer, and I toyed with going Mac, but it just doesn't fit the educational needs of the students software-wise. Not to mention support for any sort of specialized hardware.

As far as the concerns from your network admins go - tell them to find a good hardware independent imaging solution. There are some great products out there that do this type of thing. I'm partial to Altiris (now Symantec) Deployment Solution. It can kill the hardware abstraction layer and then drops in replacement drivers based on the hardware it's imaging. It runs over the network and images via PXE boot and I've heard of a lot of places that use it in pretty spread out setups (thousands of machines in far-flung locations). It scales extremely well and in cases where you do need specialized drivers for things like video cards or other special equipment they do provide a way to install those drivers. Although if you're using Novell Netware it really causes problems - in which case you'd want to look at Zenworks but it's definitely not as easy to use as Deployment Solution (works great with Active Directory though). I've been using it since the beginning of this year and I love it. I've got 12 labs of varying sizes to maintain and I only have to keep up one base image. Each lab has a scripted OS install setup that installs any special software that's needed in the lab. It's also handy to be able to reimage the labs overnight and not have to wait for semester breaks to update software.

Re:Educational environment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302880)

I work in an Novell camp, Netware makes me cry, and Zenworks has destroyed my faith in humanity. I've never before seen an imaging software that can just wreck an OS because the boot sector of the hard disk was made not by the windows formatting tool, but by an HP setup disc. If you can avoid using Zenworks, definitely avoid it. The only nice thing I *CAN* say about Zenworks, is its about 95 times faster than every product by or purchased by Symantec for the same purpose. Shame it doesn't work right all the time.

Something to consider if you end up on XP is Microsoft SteadyState. We implemented this on some public access PCs at my location and we went from reimaging them twice a week to... well its been 3 months now and they all still work perfectly.

OSX vs XP (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302758)

XP you can barely find licenses for now so that is out. Your thoughts should be on price vs stability and ease of use. Apple is more stable, easier to use, gives academic discounts etc etc. However their hardware is more expensive then the cheapy dell with crappy monitor. I would still go with iMacs, they are cleaner, less headaches, apple has great support, their machines last longer and are far superior, not to mention cool looking and all in one with power.

If price is a BIG issue go PC with windows 7, If quality and longevity is what you are looking for go OSX

Resolve Objectives (1)

wombatmobile (623057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302774)

Be aware that your multiple objectives conflict somewhat.

  1. Homogenous IT platform to simplify maintenance, support and training.
  2. Usefulness to the core requirement of teaching
  3. Relevance to the future work environment
  4. Finite budget

How to resolve the conflict? It isn't easy. You don't have enough information to predict the future of IT (nobody does).

I teach at a high school program for gifted students

Ah. Have you asked your gifted students for their views? They'll have opinions about the future of IT that may differ from those of your old grey haired colleagues in IT.

Windows, Of Course (2, Funny)

cmcguinness (228476) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302776)

Since they are going to spend most of their life justifying their budgets with PowerPoint, might as well get them used to windows ;-)

How stuff works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302778)

Teach principles and do not prefer one kind of software. Show alternatives and teach them. If you go by the "industry standard" you end up with Microsoft Office. Yesterday I had a discussion with my aunt who has been working as an construction engineer for 30 years. She told me that kids coming out of college these days have no idea how to calculate stuff. Instead they depend on software that they studied in the college. That is a very dangerous path to walk on. It may seem that teaching "industry standards" is a good idea, but in reality it is a slippery slope.

Technically real world use.... OSX (5, Informative)

dbarrycoyle (1817130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302780)

I work at NASA and have many university colleagues I work with as well. A recent IP survey I had IT do at GSFC in MD showed a Mac OSX installation base of about 30%. This is similar at my freind's universities... at least in the physics and engineering depts. We recently moved our 20 or so PC's over to Mac a few years ago and have been very happy. I was able to show I saved the government approximately $60K-$90K a year in gained productivity and reduced IT support, salary, etc.... So, while Windows is used mostly now by the Best Buy consumer level base, which is 80% of the "market", the professional technical use of OSX is much higher. I suggest having a mix of new machines if possible and taking your own data. Track how often the machines are used, under repair, software costs, and how the students take to them and make your own conclusions. Good luck.

Re:Technically real world use.... OSX (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302860)

I could believe the academic world use OSX, but in most professional occupations you'll be using windows. this is because most professional specialy software is written in windows.

In 10 years of working in the medical and engineering fields, i've seen exactly 1 person use a mac at work.

I would say the best option is to install windows 7 and have them load linux into a vpc so they can experience a unix clone. if they can handle that then if they DO come across a mac down the track it won't be such a shock - they'll know there's more then windows out there.

Re:Technically real world use.... OSX (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32303072)

I work at NASA... We recently moved our 20 or so PC's over to Mac a few years ago and have been very happy. I was able to show I saved the government approximately $60K-$90K a year in gained productivity and reduced IT support, salary, etc.... So, while Windows is used mostly now by the Best Buy consumer level base, which is 80% of the "market", the professional technical use of OSX is much higher.

Wow... you work for NASA... and they use Macs? Then... why don't they show up in the official NASA videos? Do you hide them when the camera's roll and only show fake Pcs? Could it be... *gasp*... no... you wouldn't be... lying? No, of course not. /sarcasm Pc's seen though most of the video You can see the PC's at 1:40 You can see the PCs in the beginning (those aren't Macs)

Habababdub (3, Insightful)

Cylix (55374) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302786)

So science, religion and porn have three things in common with your network. Neither of them are really going to play a huge role in the decision of the topology or specifics regarding your hosts.

What is important to consider are what are your requirements for the specific applications that apply to your curriculum today and in the near term. These things dictate what is necessary to support your environment. If you don't know what you should be using I would consult a similar audience rather then the general populace. In practice, I've generally found most educational institutes are staffed with at least some individuals who do thrive in the industry. (Hint, industry experience is a good thing).

In any event, this is a very long winded ask slashdot, but offers very few details. Even if someone said to change all of your systems to XYZ using ABC it wouldn't really matter. You can't base a purchasing decision on a few paragraphs. I certainly don't want to draw up a diagram of how your architecture should work and toss out a handful of applications.

The bottom line is that you should know at least some of these details. What are the pain points with whatever and certainly not detailed plans on the horizon.

Here is my two cents....

Come up with a consistent approach to your operating system selection and configuration. Ensure you have the capabilities to deliver a clean and automated of said services. With only 10 individuals it will really will become a painful support paradigm if you continue with some haphazard configuration.

As far as software selection.... because I know virtually nothing about what you currently use or specific fields this is in regards to... I want you to find the most expensive application that does a single 10th of what you want it to do. Buy lots of this software and pray they release the features you need in the next release.

mac mini's with virtual machines running win7 (4, Interesting)

jsepeta (412566) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302796)

computer hardware is probably a pain to procure at a high school, so i recommend the relatively inexpensive Mac mini. we're planning on converting our XP lab to Mac Minis running Windows 7 in a virtual machine (Virtualbox) which means our computer hardware won't be a limiting factor when selecting the software we teach students in our lab. Mini's are as much power as you'll need, and this makes more sense than iMacs when you factor in the cost of 22" or 24" LCDs. and by running Virtualbox, you can even set up multiple vm's so you can test out new versions of software without having to perform complete rebuilds if some microsoft update hoses the system. hell, you can even add some linux to your environment should their be some cool engineering or programming tools that would otherwise be too costly on the microsoft or apple platforms.

yep, you can buy a pc cheaper and of course you can run Linux for free, but it will probably help your students the most if they get a little bit of experience with multiple operating systems since once they graduate from college, they'll probably be using OSX 10.7 or Windows 8. running XP is a nightmare because of the security holes AND because Microsoft has already started to eliminate XP, say 2 years ago when they first discontinued it.

having dealt with apple dealer to school sales since 1991, I think the choice [Mac or PC] is a false choice. And since there are no viruses or malware that run on OSX, the schools we support who run OSX spend a shitload less on support costs, which can quickly suck up your budget, your time, and your patience in a school environment should you be running XP and get zapped by malware. since running vm's is easy, it's become a preferred way to quickly switch a lab from one group of students to the next.

Old advice... (1)

Waccoon (1186667) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302804)

In college we used HP-UNIX machines a lot. The general idea was that UNIX offered the largest gamut of languages with which to work, and learning different programming languages was generally more beneficial than learning a lot of platforms. I'm not a hardware guy, but for software, I generally agree that comparing different languages and coding styles is the best way to learn about computers. Any open-source OS is a big plus for this. If this is high-school level work, I assume the class work will largely focus on programming.

Of course, that was on the north campus where all the geeks were. I was also studying art on the south campus, and they used Macs exclusively in the art program, as well as in the newspaper office. Windows machines were available for word processing and "everything else", but not much in the CS program. Windows would be a curious choice, especially XP, as it doesn't offer very much useful stuff for education out-of-the-box.

Windows! (1)

dhalsim2 (626618) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302810)

Windows XP is the obvious choice out the two choices. If you have to have a single platform, it should be Windows. If you had enough IT support for two platforms (which you don't), then Windows and Linux. I've worked with various companies as a software engineer. The distribution of platforms that I've worked on has been roughly 50% Windows, 40% Linux, 10% Mac. Macs are much more common for creative fields, but if you're focusing on math and science and want to use what industry uses, go Windows.

Science || Eng != Education (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302814)

> I'd like to know what those of you in the science and engineering
> fields actually use more in your labs (hardware, OS, software), so
> that we can decide which platform to support.

But research or engineering is quite different from education, you know... I don't think a high school program should narrow its scopes in 'preparing the students for the industry', especially when most of your students are going to pursue graduate degrees eventually, as you said. It's not like you're teaching in a vocational school, isn't it?

Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302818)

I do hardware design (RTL for FPGA's, C/C++ coding, etc.). All you need is Ubuntu for this. If you need windows for something you can run it under VirtualBox.

doesn't matter all that much unless ... (1)

hherb (229558) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302824)

My experience from the past 25 years (degrees in both natural sciences and medicine, nowadays both practising and teaching mediicine) suggests that for the purpose of just using applications, the choice of platform doesn't matter much as long as long as the applications that you need will run on it.

However, most people serious in science are curious minds, want to understand how things work even if it is outside their main research domain - and that occasionally extends to IT even if the primary domain is outside IT. To facilitate this, I think the open sourced platforms such as the various BSD or Linux clones will fit the bill far better than the closed alternatives - provided the software you need will run on it without problems.

Are you awake? (1)

mlawrence (1094477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302828)

"I teach at a high school program for gifted students which emphasizes math, science, and technology." This sounds like any slashdotter's wet dream.

It's gotta be one of the many UNIX variants (5, Insightful)

moria (829831) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302832)

I work for a research lab in a university and we do a lot of scientific computing and webapp development. Here it is UNIX variants and only UNIX variants. We use Debian Linux on our clusters, Mac OS X or Debian Linux on my Mac Pro or Mac Mini desktops. Knowledge about C/C++ and scripting languages is very important. We are recently interviewing candidates for an opening, and it is very sad to see people who cannot code without IDE and who think building the binary is equivalent to clicking the little button on the toolbar. If education needs to do one thing, then that should be to give students a broader view instead of limiting them to some false impressions. In that sense, UNIX is a much better tool because of its rich history and active development.

Re:It's gotta be one of the many UNIX variants (1)

JambisJubilee (784493) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303042)

Second that, moreso because the supporting toolset is so rich. Of course you have your basic text editor (yay vim), compiler, profiler, and debugger. Bash, sed, awk, and grep will let you efficiently edit/transform/search multiple text files. For anything else you could just write a quick perl script. Writing a network app? You have tcpdump. Image analysis and manipulation? Imagemagick. The list goes on and on.

I'm really baffled how anyone even writes a program on Windows in the first place

Doesn't matter (4, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302844)

High School seniors are between 4 and 8 years away from working in an engineering field. That's enough time for things to change considerably, and even if it weren't, the operating system really doesn't make that much difference. If you could give them some experience using the apps that will be relevant to them, that might be a little more useful, but that space is so broad that there's no way you could know what will be needed.

I'd make sure you pick a platform that runs the software the teachers want to use for classes. If that software is available on multiple platforms, then pick the one that is most cost-effective, considering acquisition and maintenance both.

Python for them, Debian for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302898)

It is more important to introduce them to what they will use in university and grad school than what they might use in industry. By the time they get through univ. the world will have changed enough that today's OS+1 or 2 will be vastly different & obsolete to what they will be using. So teach them skills not any particular software.

I hate to make wild predictions, but the scientific language of the next 10 years will be Python 3 + numpy. (I am an old school FORTRAN* + C programmer, but it's pretty easy to recognize the writing on the wall) This is advice from deep in the trenches btw.

*(yes, FORTRAN is still widely used and useful in CFD & applied physics; don't be a language snob)

The Python part is free and (mostly) OS independent and they can have it on their own laptops & work on homework and projects at home & on the weekends.

In all honesty, the only possible way for you to manage that many workstations with an wide assortment of different hardware & so few staff at your disposal is to use Debian/stable with some custom bulk management scripts. Ubuntu might be easier for the students, but Debian is unsurpassed for server management which has to scale. Lock it down as tightly as you like. It may be a formidable learning curve for both your team and your students, and there will be pushback (less so from a sci & tech HS faculty I would like to hope), fukups, and assorted bad days, but you'll get those regardless of OS, and in the long run it will be better and easier for you and give a better foundation for your students. The thing about a learning curve is that you have to learn, which is the whole point of this exercise, right? And the good thing about Linux is that it is usually going to be reusable knowledge that you have to learn. The better you get at UNIX the better programmer you become; and vice versa.

Plus you can redirect the license budget into hardware (get some 8-cores and teach a multi-processing programming class) and salaries allowing additional staff (keeping local tax money in the district).

"Found in industry" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302912)

I write software in aerospace and our hardware is whatever the guy put in charge of buying it picked when he ordered them from Dell, our OS is usually Windows because the more influential people when they started the project were most comfortable with it (linux and solaris are used on some projects -- no OSX though to my knowledge). Our software includes a whole lot of Office and LabView. LabView is a "love it or hate it" programming language. It's also complete trash. The reason we're using it is the same as the reason we're using Windows.

Despite being a LabView hating Linux nerd I still like my job, hence the AC. But the lesson here is not to push people into a comfort zone that they're afraid to break out of. Give them a taste of as many different things as you reasonably can so they're not causing headaches for people like me when they graduate.

Choose it based upon Applications. (3, Insightful)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302918)

In our district Freshmen take Earth Science, Sophomores take Bio, Juniors Chemistry and Seniors take Physics. There's also some techy electives such as Intro to Programming, Computer Animation/CAD and an Intro to Computers (teaches the basics of how to use a computer, browsers, word processing, etc...)

Check out the applications that your those that set the curriculum want to use. Some software suites are available for one platform and not another. You can't just say, "We're using OS/2 and that's the way it will be!" As you'll have 10 department heads yelling at you that there aren't any XYZ applications available to it.

Also, who says you have to have 5k PCs each with it's own disk, OS load etc.. Why not look at Virtual Desktops (vmware view [] with dumb terminals/thin clients in the classrooms? The Unix folks have been doing this for years, but this solution is pretty slick. We've deployed it for all the staff as they only use a dozen or so standardized applications.

Btw, I'm an ex-mainframer and managing 1 mainframe and 5000 dumb 3270 terminals is much easier than 5000 desktops; and speaking from experience managing a couple of large X86 servers and a 100 thin clients is very similar.

What career path do most of your students pursue ? (5, Informative)

tuxidriver (1472049) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302948)

It will depend heavily on what path your students pursue.

I've done a mixture of hardware design and firmware development for both storage peripheral companies and IC houses. What I mostly see is:

  • Embedded development: Roughly a 50/50 mixture of Windows and Linux. Most compilers for embedded applications (e.g. Green Hills and ARM) are available for either platform. The same compilers are not available for Mac.
  • Digital IC design: Linux and some Solaris on big iron. In my experience, there is 0 use of Windows in this space. Most companies appear to be moving towards Linux.
  • IC verification (validating the design prior to producing the reticules used to manufacture the chips) is also 100% Linux with 0 use of Windows.
  • Analog IC design: Also strictly Linux and Solaris on big iron. Again, no use of Windows in this space.
  • Board level electrical design: Mostly Windows.
  • Mechanical design (Solid Works, etc.): Mostly Windows. One company I worked for used IRIX on Silicon Graphics workstations for 3D modelling, although they did eventually transition to Solid Works on Windows.
  • The modeling work I've seen/done (modeling Mueller-Muller clock recovery, Viterbi decoders, LDPC decoders, etc. used in communications systems) has been a 50/50 mixture of Windows and Linux (in some cases with the models developed with GCC and written to be portable across platforms). I believe this is mostly due to the compute resources that the companies I've worked for had on hand.

I have yet to see any significant use of Mac's, except as clients to log into Linux workstations. Almost all IC design and verification is done on some POSIX compliant OS because of the the requirements of the tools. IC houses I've worked for generally have large numbers of 32, 64, and 128 way multi-processor systems with huge amounts of RAM. Windows XP is simply not able to take full advantage of these large systems and the tools require this much horsepower to be effective. I also have noted that many IC designers generally seem to prefer the power of a good CLI over GUI point-in-click file managers. There is also a lot of scripting in these environments, mostly in Perl (although I've also need shell script and Python used). Linux and similar operating systems lend themselves more for this sort of work.

As for tools, I would suggest that you seriously look at trying to give your students at least a taste of such tools as MatLab, MathCAD, AutoCAD, and S. There are free equivalents for MatLab such as Scilab and Octave as well as Python packages such as SciPy, NumPy, and MatPlotLib (which I sometimes use for modeling). I know that languages such as S+ (or the free R language) are sometimes also used for statistical analysis. If you want to give your more advanced students a taste of chip design, consider the free offerings from Xilinx along with a few of their FPGA evaluation boards (available through DigiKey).

I hope this helps.

Locked XP ? (1)

Darie (1797844) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302968)

I'm working as a programmer since '99, and most usefull to start my career life was tha fact that I already knew how to fix Windows. In school, our computer policy was "you break-it, you fix-it", and face at a virused computer all teachers did was to tell us some names of free antivirus tools, show us how to regedit, give us some links concerning registers towards msdn, and show us some good forums to search on for info. The teacher was there if needed, watching our advancement.

Nowdays, sooner or later, in enterprise, an IT employee will - sooner or later - face Linux. But since you only put MacOS as alternative, this Unix will do. But here too, you shouldn't lock-it down. I mean, let them do theyr user stuff, no one says they should have root access, but they - at least - have to be regular users.

I think you should PXE boot either OS. That way, they may tear-it down, once the machine rebooted, the initial state will be restored.

Re:Locked XP ? (1)

Darie (1797844) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303010)

I also think that no school system should be more secure that the enterprise world in general is. This way, the student wouldn't be faced when employed with an alien environment. If in school everything was perfect, the student will be surprised and put in a difficult situation when he will for the first time join a work environement.

If the school system is also imperfect, the student will innerently start searching/thinking for solutions and should be encouraged to experiment on test machines the implementation of potential solutions, wich are not that many (active directory, ldap auth, pxe booting, virtualising)

Now if after highscholl a student will only be familiar with these elements, this will be THE achievement wich they have benefited from the school OS environement.

For what it's worth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32302970)

I'm currently a CS student in college as well as a phylogenetic research assistant on campus and we use Mac OSX 10.6 for everything.

XP as a programming platform? (0, Flamebait)

JambisJubilee (784493) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302976)

I find it hard to believe that you're considering Microsoft Windows as a platform to teach computer programming. That is the absolute WORST decision you could make. Windows really lacks the tools you'd need to do good programming, especially for the sciences.

Out In The FIeld (1)

sk999 (846068) | more than 4 years ago | (#32302988)

Where I work (very much a science and technology organization), our DESKTOP platforms are extremely limited. Office, lab, whatever, it doesn't matter. We have the following choices:

MS Windows
Mac OS X

This list is considerably reduced from what it used to be.

On the server side Linux dominates, but MS Windows is quite prevalent, and I imagine UNIX is around as well.

If you have to go with a SINGLE platform (not good), I would recommend OS X. It straddles the Linux/UNIX and Windows universes, and for a high school level lab, will give you the best of both worlds.

My suggestions (0)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303006)

First of all, my credentials: I'm not a professional sysadmin, just a professional software developer who also admins a few systems. You may want to give more weight to opinions posted by actual school sysadmins.

Okay, my recommendation: Ubuntu. And my dis-recommendation: you don't want XP.

With Ubuntu, if the computers are reasonably fast, you can do a full re-install in a short amount of time. I imagine there will be cases where someone manages to monkey around with a computer and mess it up, and ease and speed of re-install will be a win for Ubuntu. With Ubuntu you don't need to install, reboot, install a driver, reboot, install another driver, etc. Note that if you know what you are doing as a Windows sysadmin, I believe you can make a "slipstreamed" CD image with the drivers and such pre-installed, which would mitigate this a lot.

Other Linux distros would also work well, but Ubuntu has the momentum as the free home-user Linux distro of choice. Some of the high-school kids will possibly already be running Ubuntu at home. I would suggest having all students login as "guest" and have the "guest" account set up so that, when the user logs out, the /home/guest directory is removed and then replaced with a copy of a standard /home/guest directory. If some clever little black-hat wannabe edits .profile or something to try to set up a joke on the next user, this would sort that out.

With XP, you can configure the logins to be non-Administrator, and unless you are totally insane you will do so. It's hard enough to keep the computers virus-free in any event, and if you let high school kids have privileges to install software, you are just asking for trouble. But you will absolutely want anti-virus, and that means you will want to keep the anti-virus up to date, and that is a big headache that you can completely avoid with Ubuntu.

Now, as for software. Everything I'm discussing below is available on both Linux and Windows. On Ubuntu, it's trivial to install these; on Windows it would be more work. (But again you could probably work something out with a "ghost" disk image or some such.)

Depending on what kind of engineering we are talking about, many of these students may move on to using Matlab in their working lives. Matlab is expensive, but educational copies are probably available. But there is also the completely free GNU Octave, which is basically a Matlab-alike, and is freely available on Ubuntu. There is even a GUI wrapper for Octave, written for the KDE environment, but I haven't tested that. I have only used Octave for DSP work, but it is adequate for that, and did I mention that it's free. The graphing tools in Octave are not as good as real Matlab but they can get the job done. []

I have hopes that someday Matlab will fall by the wayside, and Python will replace it. Specifically, Python with the NumPy and SciPy extensions. With SciPy, Python can do much of what Matlab can do, and it does it with a much better base language; Python is a marvelously clean and tidy language, while the Matlab language is just annoying. Let's face it, it will be many years if ever before Matlab could be replaced by Python, but there are science labs and engineering groups out there using Python and the numbers will only grow. The graphing tools in SciPy are IMHO better than the ones in GNU Octave, and almost as good as the ones in Matlab. You can get Python with all the SciPy stuff pre-installed as the project Python(x,y): []

There is also a project to take every bit of free math software and glue it all together into an amazing giant math tool: this is called Sage. Sage, also, is based on Python. You run Sage as a server and you use any standard web browser as the GUI client. You can run Sage on the same computer as the web browser, or you can set up one or two Sage servers for your lab and have people pull up Sage over the intranet. You can also make some pretty awesome graphs. []

If you want to teach a general "Introduction to Programming" class, I strongly recommend Python. Python will let you focus on the actual programming, with less effort needed to learn quirks of the language. Other "scripting" languages would be okay, and I know the Ruby fans are going to chime in and suggest that; IMHO Ruby is less tidy than Python and not as suited for an intro language, but it wouldn't be bad. []

In the real world of science and engineering, programming is more likely to be C or C++, possibly Fortran, and of course Matlab/Python/etc. You could try teaching a C class; I don't recommend attempting C++ at the high school level, but if you teach a careful subset it might be okay. A class in GNU Octave, which as I said is basically a Matlab-alike, might also be a good class to teach. You can slice and dice matrices with Octave/Matlab.

It is a happy but true fact that everything I recommend is completely free, and more importantly, free of bookkeeping. You won't get in trouble for accidentally installing too many copies of free software. If you must use XP, I suggest you use a free anti-virus such as Avast, and use the free software I suggest above.

But I guess if there is an IT department, it doesn't matter that much: you will have to use what they want you to use, to keep them happy, but they will also own the headaches, so you don't care as much what you use.

Good luck, and thanks for teaching kids.


Advice (1)

lyghtkruz (1817134) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303016)

As far as the budget goes, Apple/Mac is going to be more expensive than Dell or any other Windows box you can buy (we're talking about hardware only) Then you have to take into account all of the software licenses.

For (Windows) software deployment, there is a free Dell tool called Image Direct. Basically you order one system and set it up the way you want it to create an image and then you can order systems directly from Dell with that image on it, and there's a free training and HelpDesk for assistance.

I know when I went to college, I used RedHat in the computer labs and all of our work was done on one flavour of GNU/Linux or another. The entire Physics & Sciences Labs were also running Linux. So if all of the books that teachers are using are teaching programs that are only available for Windows, then that answers your question on which OS to go with.

I wouldn't take into account which OS people like better or think would be easier to manage. Definitely go with which ones the students/teachers need, but if you do have a 'General' use Lab, you can save yourself a lot of money by buying systems that have a GNU/Linux OS on it, and there are hundreds of Free tools/apps that students can learn about and even use on Windows or OS X. To name a few, Inkscape, Gimp, Blender, OpenOffice, and not to mention all of the compilers that are readily available in most GNU/Linux OSes.

Anyway, I hope this helps and you don't get flooded with responses that say things like "Windows Sucks." etc. Good luck to you with whatever you decide.


For chemistry, biology and physics. . . (3, Interesting)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303022)

. . .I would recommend Windows, Windows, and (not strongly) OSX.

There is no question in my mind that Windows is the way to go for chemistry software, as I've now spent almost ten years at three different universities working my way to a PhD (almost there!), and besides the occasional foray into Linux (control software for two different brands of NMR), it's been Windows all the way (and the NMR software was available for in a Windows client, also). I could post a list of all the instrumentation I've used, but trust me, it's long, probably around twenty-thirty instruments now.

From my undergrad experience:

I haven't used as much software earning my bio degree, but we mainly used statistical packages, and they all ran on Windows - the SEM (the only instrument I used in that department) ran on XP, too.

I only had a year of physics as required for the chem and bio degrees, but the physics department uses Macs for the computer labs and the classroom computers - supposedly there are a lot of interesting software packages available, which I never used. The instrumentation I had the opportunity to use (the Mossbauer spectrometer and the x-ray diffractometer) both ran on XP, though.

Variety is good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32303028)

For students variety is good. Too have a solid background one must understand the Unix OS and Windows since these are the most viable in business Today. So to be fare to the students you should have both Windows and probably Linux is a good choice. As for administration it's quite easy to build golden images and simply scratch machines, also make sure home directories are stored centrally this can easily be done using NDS for Linux and Samba for the Windows shares.

Once you have no local document on PC's you can simple replace/re-install whenever is needed, will save a alot of time.

Linux (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32303044)

I haven't touched Windows or Mac OS since I got my bachelor's. I work for an IC design firm and we do all of our work in Linux and BSD, from the ASIC, to the test board layout and embedded developement.

Civil & Geomatics = Windows XP & 7 (1)

rocketPack (1255456) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303052)

I'll name a few reasons why we're stuck with Windows XP & 7:
- AutoCAD - Land Desktop & Civil 3D
- Leica LiDAR Scanner Software
- ArcGIS
- Trimble Geomatics Office

The tools of industry are written for windows. Your employer will have Windows based computers with Windows based software, so education follows suit and we're stuck with all-windows systems.

Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32303054)

with Windows 7 limited to machines for AutoCAD. ..and don't be too cheap to shell out for a Landscape licence if you want manageability.

Consider what they're using at home. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32303058)

They're probably already being exposed to Windows or Mac OS at home, so why not do Linux?

When I was in university, (graduated 2008), the Mac Lab was usually empty, and more people would be hanging around the Windows Lab.
There was a third lab but had no clue how to log into those machines, (probably for hardcore computer majors).

Of course, nowadays, most people would have their own laptops, and they'd connect to wireless networks.

Support Ratio? (1)

bogidu (300637) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303062)

I'm sorry, but am I the only one who choked when he said 5000 computers to 10 IT staff? Maybe I'm out of date but the last average I heard from Gartner was like 115:1, is this not the case anymore? And I thought I was overworked w/175 pc's and an equal amount of IP phones.

no xp (1)

fadethepolice (689344) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303074)

Most new engineering software requires more ram than a 32 bit xp install can provide.

Windows or Apple's OS? (1)

hardcache (1570897) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303092)

Advantage of Windows: 1. .NET framework 2. Vizio? Advantages of Apple's OS: 1. No licensing fees for Snow Leopard Server - greatly reducing cost 2. Lower level of IT support required - IT team could easily manage 5k clients over a school district. 3. Students learn C+, Objective C, and develop iPhone/Touch/iPad apps as a way to learn programming. Check out Apple's site for iPhone developer support for education - really interesting.

Uhm, both? (1)

kanweg (771128) | more than 4 years ago | (#32303116)

The obvious answer is: buy Macs. They guarantee you flexibility. You can install Windows on them if you need it. You can run Windows and Mac OS X as alternative systems (Bootcamp), using a virtual machine such as Parallels, or without Mac OS X at all. Windows licenses are very cheap for educational organizations.

So, any argument you read in favour of Windows in this topic goes for choosing a Macintosh computer.

Choosing Macs only, such as iMacs, makes your hardware support very easy, compared to buying a mix of computers.

Who suffers in daily life from programs written obviously by programmers who have never worked with a computer with a decent set of GUI XUI guidelines. They would have learned some basic things from that.

Two platforms not a problem, on the contrary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32303122)

The key is in automating the crap out of the entire "OS lifecycle". At $university the machines actually booted netware, presented a menu, then booted the OS of choice. I forget how it was done exactly, but some things booted entirely remotely and others less so. They were actually more stable than the w95-only kiosks running netscape the library had deployed. Yeah, this was some time ago.

The thing is that a monoculture inevitably does you in, and that wouldn't benefit your students. To excel they'll have to be able to use whatever they encounter later in life so it's actually beneficial if they're exposed to multiple systems. Same with programming languages for that matter. Teach at least two and preferrably wildly different ones. Show the differences and explain why they exist.

As to which platforms to support, well, you already have a pretty good mix. Part of what you should teach your students is how to automate their own daily tasks, and "something command line" (shell, python, forth, whatever) is still a good, quick and easy way to achieve that. hypercard with its hypertalk was another. windows never did support any of that very well, in fact even before it was windows it sucked at that to the point that a shell replacement (4DOS) was a must-have. macos X has much BSD userland but a few clicks away, so that's good. Or you could go a linux or *BSD route, and see how much you can supply that way. But whatever you do, make sure your shop can efficiently support multiple platforms. And the key to that is automation. This is IT, man.

Future engineers shouldn't be smothered with warm body entertainment eye candy. They should be taught how to make their tools dance for them. And what engineer has but one trick up their sleeves?

Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32303126)

As a molecular biologist and bioinformaticist, any exposure to Linux is key. I use some flavor of linux as well as shell OSX on a daily basis. I do bench research in an immunology laboratory and analyze data using bioinformatic tools. Being fluent in Perl and Linux are not absolutely essential, but they make my job a whole lot easier.

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